Rethinking Family Ministry

The tide is growing for family ministry in churches all over America.  People see the need for a biblical approach to discipling all ages, but many are unsure of a path and fearful of initiating a change.  Maybe you feel like the building blocks are there, but you don’t have the diagram to tell you where to start.

As you think through the process of rethinking family ministry, here are some things to think through.

The Reasons for Family Ministry

  1. Statistics show that our current approach is not working.  A shocking amount of students are leaving the church by the end of their freshman year in college.  For all the investment we have made, we are losing significant ground a generation at a time.
  2. Discipleship brings a family together.  Family discipleship is not only the best approach for long-term maturity, but it also unites a family greatly.  In a culture that seems bent on separating the family, the church needs to bring them back together.
  3. The Bible commands it.  The narrative of Scripture emphasizes the need for families to pass on a spiritual legacy to future generations (some key passages – Gen. 18:19; Deut. 6:4-9; Josh 24:14-15; Ps. 78:1-8; Ps. 127:1-5; Mal. 4:6; Eph. 6:1-4; 2 Tim. 1:2-7).

The Options for Family Ministry

  1. Programmatic – By keeping all ages separate and distinct, the church expects specialized pastors to evangelize and disciple those within their age of assignment.
  2. Family-Based – Maintaining a programmatic approach, a family-based model includes extra events to bring the family together.
  3. Family Equipping – Retaining certain programs for ages, the family-equipping model restructures ministries in order to emphasize the priority of the family.
  4. Family Integrated – Rejecting any type of age-based segregation, the family integrated model focuses on the centrality of the home and the unity of all things church-related.

The Challenges for Family Ministry

  1. Lack of Ministry Alignment – In an attempt to prioritize the family, some churches cannot succeed because ministry silos are too territorially established to make a change.
  2. Lack of Unified Curriculum – If every age is focusing on something different with the church, it is hard to be intentional as a family.
  3. Lack of Discipled Parents – We should not expect parents to do something that we have taken away from them.

The Steps for Family Ministry

  1. Equip Parents – Reorient your entire approach that seeks programs to supplement parents instead of parents supplementing programs.
  2. Enhance Programs – Begin to make intentional steps to align your ministries to harmonize with one another and to equip the family.
  3. Engage Needs – Acknowledge the families that are at a disadvantage and provide intentional relationships and opportunities to fill what is lacking.